Nov 20, 2007

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C - Cronulla parish - 18 November, 2007

Readings: Malachi 3:19-20; Ps 97:5-9; 2 Thess 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19.

View the readings

As the Church year comes to an end, today’s readings, and the readings of the last few weeks, have been focussed on the final days of the world, our own death and final judgment. Today's theme is “The Day of the Lord” or the “second coming” of Jesus in glory as judge of the living and the dead.

There are many ways to respond to the concept and thought of the end of the world and our own judgement before God.

The prophet Malachi in today’s first reading said that “For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.”

Many today misunderstand what it means to Fear the Lord. Fearing the Lord brings light, joy and healing, as Malachi tells us today.

The Fear of the Lord is not a negative oppressive fear of punishment, but Fear of the Lord is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit strengthened at Confirmation.

Fear of the Lord is a fear that our actions will offend the one who loves us and to whom we love.

An example of the type of fear that we should have of God is expressed in the love between a husband and a wife. A mature loving couple will not try to intentionally hurt the other by their actions, not through a fear of separation and divorce, but through a fear of upsetting their beloved. Disappointing another is hurtful and when a couple truly love each other, each will be afraid to hurt the one they love.

When a Fear of the Lord is understood in this way, it makes sense. Fear is a necessary quality for a loving relationship with anyone, and the same goes with the Lord.

God desires that we all choose Heaven, that we all choose to accept Christ as our Saviour and our Lord and that we all enter into eternal life. God is in fact disappointed and hurt when we choose to reject his eternal presence. That is why we should all have a fear of the Lord, a loving fear of not hurting another.

In today’s second reading we see St Paul’s response to some of the attitudes of the early Christians. The earliest Christians expected Jesus to come again in glory very soon, bringing history to its climax, and bringing the final judgment upon the living and the dead. Some among the Thessalonians responded to this theory of the nearness of the end of the world by abandoning their customary work and leading a life of idleness, asking themselves: "Why should we spend the small amount of time before the End of the World in hard labor?"

In today’s second reading St. Paul corrects the Thessalonians by asking them to imitate his own example of manual work, warning them that “if anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that person eat.” Pretty strong words.

On the fridge at my parent’s home, my mother has placed these words from St Paul to remind my brothers and sisters to do their chores and to contribute to the house. The implication being that they will not eat if they do not work.

Work is sacred and we are all reminded today that simply because the end of the world is just around corner, we shouldn’t forget to continue to work and labour for the Lord. In fact, simply because we receive Christ in the Eucharist, and we are part of Christ’s body the Church does not guarantee that we all will be saved.

Salvation is a choice that we make daily and with it comes the mission to spread the message of Christ to all the ends of the earth. If we are not working to build up God’s kingdom here on earth, then are we simply becoming like the Thessalonians, who were more willing to be idle then to be about the work of God.

In Luke’s Gospel today, The Lord warns us about the temptation of viewing the endless wars, natural disasters and general disunity within our society, as signs of the End of the World.

In Luke’s Gospel, the audience he is writing to has confused the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 with Jesus’ predictions of the end of the world.

Jesus refused to predict details or provide clues for the coming of the end of the world, despite how hard we try to read the Book of Revelation. Wars "earthquakes, pestilence and famine" were traditionally personified as the “Four Apocalyptic Horsemen” who would come to announce the end-time judgment. Prophets of doom in every century point to historical calamities, such as wars and revolts, they point to cosmic disasters, such as great earthquakes, famines, tsunamis and hurricanes, and they point to "signs from the heavens" like solar eclipses and comets, explaining them as signs of the end of the world. This is a direct contradiction of what Jesus said. He told us not to try and predict the end, but to live the Gospel faithfully and lovingly. Instead of destroying us, faithfulness to the message of Christ will gain us eternal life.

My friends, we need to be daily prepared for death and judgment. The ideal way of accepting Jesus’ apocalyptic message is to be ever ready to face our death.

I will leave you today with some words from St Augustine from the 5th century: “Because you are unjust, shall the judge not be just? If you want to find the judge merciful, be merciful yourself before he comes. Forgive if anyone offends against you. Give from your riches… The most pleasing sacrifices to God are mercy, humility, confession, peace, love. If we bring these to God, then we shall await without fear the coming of the judge who will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with his truth.”

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